There was a brief period of time where winning multiple gold medals, let alone winning the gold in every event that you participated in, was unthinkable. It was a lifetime before Michael Phelps would come along and destroy this record as well as every other record. Mark Spitz's record-setting 7 gold medals at a single Olympics seemed impossible, and so it remained for 36 years.
The year was 1972
Back when it was practically mandated by society that a man have a mustache and only a mustache, no beard! things were a little bit different. Cars weighed 3 times what they do now and all of them got no miles per gallon and nobody cared. Nobody had cable TV and if you did watch television all the programming on the 6 or so channels you could tune in would stop broadcasting around midnight. Then you had to go to sleep because VCR's didn't exist and neither did the internet.
Swimming techniques and the physicality needed to excel in the sport was still the same as it in now. Mark Spitz was a totally dominant member of the sport as well.
I find it crazy that Mark was able to do this at all but also to do it with no swim cap and no goggles as well. There are some swimmers these days that do everything they possibly can, including shaving their entire bodies to make themselves more streamlined. Mark Spitz didn't give a fuck. Mark Spitz got in the pool and dominated using no technology at all. He probably would have worn board shorts if that was a thing in the 70's, just to be different.
I wonder if the medal awarding ceremonies started to become a bit boring for everyone including Mark. He won every event that he entered after all, and a couple of them he won convincingly like multiple body lengths between him and the next competitor.
The event that happened today that gave him the new record for the number of medals won in a single games was actually a 4 x 100 meters medley relay (where 1 member does each of the different strokes.) Obviously all the events don't take place in a single day but it was today that Spittz broke the Olympic record of winning 5 medals in a single Olympics and that record had stood since 1924. So yeah, it was kind of a big deal. It is also slightly noteworthy that not only did he win the gold in every event he participated in but he also set a new world record time in each of those events. How amazing is that?
Mark actually didn't want to compete in the 100 meters freestyle event because he was concerned that he couldn't win and he is quoted as saying right before the event: "If I swim six and win six, I'll be a hero. If I swim seven and win six, I'll be a failure." Talk about setting your goals extremely high. In high school I was quite a swimmer myself. I finished tenth in the state of Virgina for one event and I was on cloud nine.
I went digging for a Wheaties box with Mark on the cover in 1972 but apparently there is a period of many years ('68 to '76) where they didn't have any athletes on the cover or perhaps didn't even manufacture the cereal and I don't have any idea why that is the case. If anyone out there in internetland knows why that happened I would be very interested to know.
Michael Phelps would break the record of Spitz in 2008 by winning 7 medals in one Olympics. It is also worth noting that while Spitz had won 9 Gold medals overall, Phelps was considerably more dominant by winning 23 gold medals over the course of 4 separate Olympic games. There is some speculation that Spitz could have won more than he did, but he retired from the sport at the age of 22. He would later try to qualify for the Olympics at the age of 41 and it was part of a documentary film that was never released as far as I know. Mark failed to qualify by a few seconds.
Spitz has said on the record that he doesn't mind that Phelps beat his record and well, why should he? He was the king for 36 years and Phelps is a freak of nature.
I will admit that I don't really even care very much when the Olympics comes around but I do tend to watch the swimming events. I bet that was a really exciting time to be watching the games, especially since in '72 no one had remote controls and you probably just kept the TV on the same channel all day.
I was not alive at that time but the name Mark Spitz was still famous when I started swimming competitively in the 80's. He is and always will be a legend in the sport and he became a household name at least for a time today, 48 years ago.